College of Engineering News Room

Linda and Jerry Griffin Change the Face of Engineering

By Brad Stager

While Jerry Griffin was earning his bachelors and masters degrees in civil engineering at the University of South Florida in the mid-to-late 1960s he noticed there were few women among his classmates. It’s something that he says has been a consistent observation throughout his career in aviation and turbine engineering, in industry and academia, adding that broadening the pool of students who are interested in engineering and have the means to study it and enter the profession is beneficial overall.

 “Underrepresented groups are a significant portion of our society and they need educational opportunities to flourish. When an individual can flourish, so can the whole country,” says Jerry, who had a tenure of almost 30 years at Carnegie Mellon University before retiring from there as a professor. 

Linda and Jerry Griffin

Linda Griffin (l.) and Jerry Griffin flank the first recipients of their scholarship to support women in engineering.

With the goal of helping to increase the participation of women in engineering, Linda and Jerry Griffin have created their scholarship in order to make such a career accessible to more women by providing sustained support throughout their pursuit of an undergraduate engineering degree, regardless of the specific major.

The Linda and Jerry Griffin Engineering Scholarship is available to full-time students and is merit-based with a preference for financial need.  It is awarded to a cohort of four women  students who will receive $7,500 in the spring and will continue to receive annual scholarships of $7,500 at a rate of $3,750 per semester. The scholarship is renewable for up to 10 semesters over a five-year period. An additional $2,500 will be awarded to students participating in an internship or co-op experience.

The additional funding available for internships reflects the importance that Jerry places on exposure to the daily work of engineering in the learning process. He says the practical knowledge he gained from his co-op experience at NASA made the studies at USF beneficial to launching his career.

“That gave me a lot of insight into engineering and what I wanted to do.”

Jerry adds that USF provided him a high level of instruction at an affordable cost and that is one of the reasons they can make their scholarship sustainable over the course of completing an undergraduate degree.

“USF is a really great value. We can support four students and support them all the way through,” says Jerry who graduated from Zephyrhills High School, about 30 miles from the USF Tampa campus.

The Griffins, who first met during one of Jerry’s co-op terms, have applied their talents to create their business, Blade Diagnostics Corporation. The company develops methods and tools such as software that supports the design, manufacture and maintenance of turbine systems, especially integrally bladed disks. The company’s customers include the U.S. military as well as aviation and power-generating companies. Linda says they appreciate the role that USF played in making their success possible.

“Our thought was, there’s no better place than USF to start our scholarship program.”

After receiving his MS in civil engineering in 1969, Jerry took up doctoral studies at the California Institute of Technology and received his Ph.D. in Applied Mechanics in 1973. He worked in the domestic aviation industry and took time to teach at the college level in New Zealand before eventually becoming a professor of engineering  at Carnegie Mellon in 1980 where he conducted research in turbine blade vibration.  He says more women are entering university engineering programs than before and that long-term financial support such as what the Linda and Jerry Griffin Engineering Scholarship offers can make a difference in them completing their degrees.

“We want to help people complete their dream joining the engineering profession.  Our investment is small compared to the impact it can have on the lives of these young people.”